Something that you hear a lot about in the industry is that timelines for comic artists are way too tight. They’re given an unrealistic deadline to complete XX number of pages for a project, with way too small of a page rate.
Some creators don’t have an idea yet of what their personal timeline is and they get put on a book and suddenly have a lot of work to complete in a short amount of time. Thinking about what you can do in advance of taking on work for publishers is something that protects you and other artists. And it helps to manage the expectations of publishers, editors, and other hiring parties that may be bringing an artist on board for work.
As the conversation evolves and more people talk about the issues that creators face, the more people are stepping up to do something about it. Creator, Carey Pietsch has collaborated with other artists in the industry to create the Comic Deadline Planner.
Below is a screenshot of the spreadsheet to get an idea of what it looks like. But if you click on the image (or here), you will be taken to the shared example where you can copy the spreadsheet for yourself to manually input the values that fit your working pace.
It’s very important to note that this is about creating realistic expectations for you as a comics creator. You need to figure out how long it sustainably takes you to create your art, and factor that into any work that you take on. This is all adjustable to what works best for you.
You want to get familiar with how long it takes you to work so that you don’t physically and emotionally exert yourself. You want to work with your publisher, editor, agent, co-creators, etc. to make sure that you’re not killing yourself to make a comic happen. Health care is not something offered to a lot of creators and freelancers, so taking care of your body so you can have a long and thriving career is extremely important.
Set bars for yourself and make sure that upfront you’re stating what you’re able to do and comfortable doing in a certain amount of time.
If a creator asks you if you can turn around 22 pages in 4 weeks (line art only), and you can do it but it’s not ideal, ask for additional compensation. Base your page rates around what is healthy for you.
I know it’s not always easy to advocate for what you feel is best for you. Artists are constantly undervaluing themselves as creators and getting taken advantage of.
But, if we work on creating standards that the whole industry can understand and get behind, we can help to make things healthier and happier for everyone.
It’s better to turn down work that will put too much stress and pressure on you than agreeing and being unable to deliver. Managing editorial expectations is as much about trying to change the industry’s perceptions as it is about helping the artists to establish their own reasonable workloads.
This article was originally published with our own formula and with some suggested math to do the work on figuring out reasonable deadlines for yourself. But Carey Pietsch’s Deadline Planner is excellent and is definitely a step up from ours. Whether you do your own math or use a planner, being able to know what you’re able to do (without burning yourself out) is vital.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.